We’re interviewing makers from all 50 states. Today we’re featuring Richard Smith, a woodworker from New York.
How did you get started woodworking? Who were your mentors?
It was only 3 years ago – I was moving into a new apartment with my girlfriend in Brooklyn and she would not stop showing me furniture that was upwards of $3,000. As two people who have both worked in the luxury fashion industry for 10+ years, we have expensive taste – I get that – but I was confident that I could create something on my own that would be just as good, if not better than the furniture she was looking for. Given, I had zero experience or interest in woodworking at that time, but I was determined to make our space look great. Home Depot was just walking distance away from the new spot, so I spent all my down time watching YouTube videos and researching how-to / DIY woodworking and in less than a month I made our dining and coffee table; made from Douglas Fir and plumbing pipe. Over the course of the next 2 years, I redid those projects 3 times to adjust the style, material and finish to match the progression I have made as a woodworker throughout those years.
I currently make everything make everything out of my make-shift (yet sufficient) workshop in the second floor of my Brooklyn apartment, which is 10’x7’ big.
What do you think is your best or favorite work? What kind of work do you do the most?
In all honesty, the last or current project I’m working on is always my favorite. I haven’t been doing this for a long time, so every time I have the opportunity to create a custom piece of furniture for a client, I try to push myself to be better; sometimes that means perfecting my design skills and sometimes it means trying a new leg style. I’m growing and learning every day so I get excited to work with different species of lumber and experiment with different types of joinery every chance I get. Not going to lie, if I could, I would only make dining tables and dressers because those are my favorite, but I can’t be choosy in the commissioned projects.
What advice would you give to someone that wants to start woodworking or pursue it as a profession?
Learn to be patient. By no means am I an expert at this point, but I have learned a lot in a short amount of time doing this. Things will never be perfect on the first try and sometimes not on the second, and that’s ok. It’s important to take your mistakes as opportunities to learn from and try to refine them as you go; but also make sure any work that you give to a client is something you’re proud of. I can’t even tell you the amount of times I’ve spent extra money buying new material just to make sure the client project would come out how I truly wanted instead of making a bigger profit. It can be annoying during the process but it is absolutely worth the reward of knowing your client is happy and you did the best work you could have put forth.
What’s your best hands-on tip or woodworking technique?
The goal is to make repeatable cut. It is better to consistently miss by a 64th of an inch rather than to try to nail a dimension 100%.
Is there anyone you’d like to shout-out or recommend we follow? Who inspires you? (Doesn’t have to be woodworking related, either.)
I haven’t discovered anyone you guys don’t already recommend – but I really enjoy watching anyone and everyone who is working towards their craft and genuinely enjoying what they do. I spend a lot of time watching YouTube videos, from uber-talented to slightly janky woodworkers and I’m still able to take in the same amount of practical information, to help advance my own skills, for better or for worse.
See more of Richard’s work on his Instagram @xx44woodworks
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